By Bruce Schneck
Probably one of the most versatile streamers would be the muddler minnow. Tied in some of the smaller sizes such as 10 through 12 and fished with a bit of floatant it is an excellent match for grasshoppers. Tied a bit bushy and in larger sizes like 2 to 10 it works well on fish feeding on sculpins. When trying to match the bottom hugging sculpins a few wraps of lead wire on the hook shank would be in order. From the basic natural turkey pattern through the various colors various minnows will be matched. For minnow imitations you can have the flies weighted or not. Some tiers like to use a jig head as the base for muddler minnows. It would not surprise me if some of the original muddlers were not tied on jig heads as Don Gapen a mid west fishermen who primarily went after smallmouth bass and catfish is credited with inventing the muddler minnow.
Looking at the basic pattern we can see how well it lends itself to materials commonly found in Pennsylvania. The hook is usually a 4X long streamer style. Black 6/0 thread and a mottled turkey quill segment. The body is wrapped both back and forward with flat gold tinsel. The underwing is gray squirrel tail using mottled turkey quill segments for the overwing. All turkey wing segments can be lacquered to help hold them together. The use of lacquer is at the discression of the tier. A lacquered wing is certainly neater and holds up better but many times it seems the fly is more productive as it gets beat up. Try it both ways to see what you prefer. The head of the fly is spun natural gray deer hair clipped to shape leaving untrimmed natural ends extending toward bend as a collar.
Dyed turkey or goose segments can be used to imitate various minnows, crayfish, sculpins. Crickets and grasshoppers. Black, gold, orange,white and yellow all have their time and place. Marabou can be substituted for the wing quills to perhaps give the fly a bit more action.
Tying a muddler on a weighted body and incorporating orange and green and maybe some brown gives us a fly that matches a crayfish well.
A nice gift for a Pa. hunter/fisherman would be an assortment of muddlers tied from a few feathers taken from a turkey he has harvested. The flies I tied for photos for this article will be going to Outdoor Editor Doyle Dietz as they were tied with feathers from a turkey he outsmarted. Other materials for muddlers are whitetail hair and squirrel tail. Certainly common Pa. game animals.
A huge benefit in tying your own muddlers or having them made special order is that the size of the spun deer hair head can be very varied in size. The larger the head the better the fly will float. Big benefit of being able to vary size and floatability of head comes into play when fishing to a school or pod of steelhead. Get the fly floating just right and you can make a super presentation dancing the fly in front of the school of fish. At times when fish are not too active they can be teased into biting by presenting the fly at the proper depth.
By varying materials a fly for many conditions can be produced.